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Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel. Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becom Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel. Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own… Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.


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Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel. Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becom Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel. Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own… Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

30 review for The Henna Artist

  1. 4 out of 5

    Katie B

    I don't get the opportunity to travel much anymore so I kinda have to rely on books to take me to places I might not get the chance to ever visit. I've read a few fiction books with India as the setting and what first caught my interest about this one is it takes place in the 1950s. The author did a phenomenal job in making me feel like I was transported to this time and country and the main character, Lakshmi, is someone worth getting to know in my opinion. Very glad I got the chance to read th I don't get the opportunity to travel much anymore so I kinda have to rely on books to take me to places I might not get the chance to ever visit. I've read a few fiction books with India as the setting and what first caught my interest about this one is it takes place in the 1950s. The author did a phenomenal job in making me feel like I was transported to this time and country and the main character, Lakshmi, is someone worth getting to know in my opinion. Very glad I got the chance to read this one. At the age of seventeen, Lakshmi escaped her abusive marriage and headed to the city of Jaipur. She's worked hard as a henna artist for quite a few years. She's developed quite the reputation among her wealthy clients with her artistry and has managed to scrimp and save enough money to own a home. Work still needs to be completed on the house and that means Lakshmi must keep on working to pay off her debts. Her husband tracks Lakshmi down and brings with him quite the surprise, Radha, a thirteen year old girl who is the sister Lakshmi never knew she had. The new and better life Lakshmi worked so hard for threatens to come crashing down with this new development. First of all, I admit I was a bit worried when I started the book and saw there was a section for the cast of characters. Usually that indicates there are going to be so many characters it can be confusing to the reader and therefore you need a cheat sheet. However, other than a few names here and there, I didn't even find myself flipping back and forth as it was pretty easy to keep everyone straight in my mind. On a related note, the glossary of terms in the back for different Indian words and phrases was pretty helpful. Within the story, italics were used for the different words that appeared in the glossary. Lakshmi is one of the more stronger female characters I have come across in my reading recently. I thought she was a character who was very easy to root for and I felt bad when it seemed like so many things beyond her control were causing problems in her life. I thought Lakshmi's non-henna work enhanced an already rich and layered story. There's so much here for a book club discussion as you have such things as the different social classes in India, differences in Western medicine and herbal remedies, women's roles in society in 1950s India, etc.. I really hope this book finds a large audience as I found it to be a worthwhile read. I won a free advance copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway but was under no obligation to post a review. All views expressed are my honest opinion.

  2. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    i really enjoyed this, but once i read the authors note at the end, it made the book that much more meaningful. this story is an imagining of the life AJs mother could have lived, had she not entered an arranged marriage when she was a teenager. its a tale of perseverance, history, self-worth, forgiveness, womanhood, and family. lakshmi is also a character worth reading about. i adored her hard work ethic and her determination to create the life she knows she deserves. she made is very easy for i really enjoyed this, but once i read the authors note at the end, it made the book that much more meaningful. this story is an imagining of the life AJs mother could have lived, had she not entered an arranged marriage when she was a teenager. its a tale of perseverance, history, self-worth, forgiveness, womanhood, and family. lakshmi is also a character worth reading about. i adored her hard work ethic and her determination to create the life she knows she deserves. she made is very easy for me to root for her the entire way. but i will say i wish there was more about henna in this. i would have loved to read more about the tradition of henna, what the art means, and the background of it all. while doing henna is lakshmis job, its really only brought up as a way to explain how she meets people/makes money. i just thought there would be more of it considering the title, but it honestly didnt feel like a main focus in the story at all. regardless, this is a wonderful historical fiction novel that will immediately carry to you to india in the 1950s. ↠ 4 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    I love it when a book introduces me to something new and teaches me something. I had never given any thought to the people who create the elaborate henna drawings on the hands and feet of an Indian woman for ceremonial occasions. This book is set in 1950s India and introduced me to Lakshmi who was a henna artist. Lakshmi had been forced to marry when she was 15. Her mother in law was a healer and she taught Lakshmi about folk cures and the properties of various herbs. After Lakshmi left her husb I love it when a book introduces me to something new and teaches me something. I had never given any thought to the people who create the elaborate henna drawings on the hands and feet of an Indian woman for ceremonial occasions. This book is set in 1950s India and introduced me to Lakshmi who was a henna artist. Lakshmi had been forced to marry when she was 15. Her mother in law was a healer and she taught Lakshmi about folk cures and the properties of various herbs. After Lakshmi left her husband she established herself as a henna artist for wealthy women. The job included much more than painting, she was also part therapist/part masseuse and she provided herbal remedies including one that caused abortions. She was an independent woman who managed to save enough money to build her own house, until her younger sister appeared on her doorstep and changed both of their lives. The details of the lives of these women, and the societal restrictions that they faced, were fascinating. The writing was very clear and contained. I was pleased to find that it did not have an obligatory romance. This is the author’s first book and I’d be happy to read her next one. 4.5 stars

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alex Black

    This whole book felt a little surface level. As much as I was curious about the story and where it would go, I never cared about the characters or felt invested in their lives. I always wanted more from the story and it felt liked it only scratched the surface of the emotions it could have had. My favorite part of the story was Lakshmi's job, her role as Henna artist and abortionist, and how she helped people. I loved seeing the insight into the lives of the rich and how her Henna helped them as This whole book felt a little surface level. As much as I was curious about the story and where it would go, I never cared about the characters or felt invested in their lives. I always wanted more from the story and it felt liked it only scratched the surface of the emotions it could have had. My favorite part of the story was Lakshmi's job, her role as Henna artist and abortionist, and how she helped people. I loved seeing the insight into the lives of the rich and how her Henna helped them as well as the poor and desperate and the different remedies she had. It was a fascinating look at Indian society in the 50s and the relationship between her and her clients was very well done. But the story seemed like it drifted away from that quite a bit. Instead of delving deeply into Lakshmi's career, her relationships, or her younger sister's troubles, it felt like the book hit on every point briefly, just long enough to explain the issue without giving time to explore it. I think part of that was because of how fast paced the book was. It covers a whole year in just under 350 pages, and there aren't any large time jumps. It just sort of skims the trials and tribulations of their lives. We don't actually get to see any of the characters' development, the easiest example being Radha, Lakshmi's younger sister. She shows up in the beginning as a village girl who's never left home, but at some point becomes confident in the city and rebellious against her sister. When did this happen? I have no idea. We didn't get to see any growth or change apart from Lakshmi giving her a list of instructions on how to act. I didn't dislike this book, but I really did find myself struggling to care. I felt so distant from these characters and their lives. Nothing about this book hit me emotionally. Even when things got difficult for these characters, as they nearly always do, it felt almost clinical. Overall, interesting story in theory and there was enough I enjoyed about the culture of the time to make it worthwhile, but it's not a book I'll be excitedly pushing on others. If it sounds interesting to you, I'd recommend picking it up, but I didn't think it was anything spectacular.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Berit☀️✨

    Alka Joshi brings 1950s India to life with her lush and vivid writing. If you are someone like me who enjoys learning about other cultures and traveling to places you might never go, this is a can’t miss. The interesting well drawn characters and the captivating storytelling completely drew me into this clever tale. Sneha Mathan masterfully narrated this audiobook, really bringing a voice and an additional layer to this incredible story. With a book like this it is nice to have the audiobook bec Alka Joshi brings 1950s India to life with her lush and vivid writing. If you are someone like me who enjoys learning about other cultures and traveling to places you might never go, this is a can’t miss. The interesting well drawn characters and the captivating storytelling completely drew me into this clever tale. Sneha Mathan masterfully narrated this audiobook, really bringing a voice and an additional layer to this incredible story. With a book like this it is nice to have the audiobook because then you know how things are pronounced, however you don’t always know how things are spelled. There is a PDF that accompanies the audiobook that includes a list of the characters and a glossary. This made me a little nervous that there needed to be a character list, but I have to say I never needed to refer to it I never was confused. 1950s India 17-year-old Lakshmi escapes her abusive marriage and heads to Jaipur. In Jaipur Lakshmi establishes herself as a successful henna artist as well as a procurer of herbal remedies. She has even realize her dream of owning her own home, then her pass catches back up with her. Her estranged husband shows up with her 13-year-old sister Radha, A sister she did not even know she had. What ensues is a compelling tale of family, tradition, secrecy, revenge, and second chances. Loved this book! Lakshmi was such an easy character to get behind. She was so strong, so smart, and so deserving. Her sister Radha on the other hand really frustrated me, I had to remind myself that she was just a teenager at times. There were many other extremely well drawn secondary characters some who I loved and some who I did not. I also found the herbal medicine in this book super fascinating and I liked how they combined it with traditional medicine in the story. This is one of those books that gives you a lot to think about. Filled with colorful characters and beautifully told this is a story that I will not soon forget. This book in emojis: 🇮🇳 🖌 💰 🦜 🛺 🚂 🏔 🏥 *** Big thank you to Harlequin & Harper Audio for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

  6. 5 out of 5

    Smitha Murthy

    I have done this again. Not really fallen for a book that everyone seems to be raving about. But see - I am from South India. We don’t really go around applying henna for fun, on occasions, to get pregnant or arouse desire in our spouses. The art of henna itself is far removed from my life. That’s not why I struggled with this book. It’s just that I have a feeling this book is written for that white woman who finds India ‘exotic’ and swoons at its ‘spirituality.’ It’s not written for the Indian I have done this again. Not really fallen for a book that everyone seems to be raving about. But see - I am from South India. We don’t really go around applying henna for fun, on occasions, to get pregnant or arouse desire in our spouses. The art of henna itself is far removed from my life. That’s not why I struggled with this book. It’s just that I have a feeling this book is written for that white woman who finds India ‘exotic’ and swoons at its ‘spirituality.’ It’s not written for the Indian audience who knows that India is also the nation of 10,000 startups, sleek bustling offices, and more technology than you can dream of. Show me that book now coming from the US! But it won’t sell. We have to show India with its drains of sewage, the Maharanis and their glittering lifestyles, and the prostitution. No wonder the West laps it up. I found the narrator, Lakshmi Shastri, a henna artist who reads Dickens and Jane Austen, rather unbelievable. Her explanations on what Indians do and don’t do seem written for that white woman audience. She has a sister who I would have thrown out if it were me, so annoying is she. The one saving grace is that Lakshmi is a self-made woman who leaves her husband, sleeps with her client’s husband, then gets irritated when the client gets upset (!), and is quite the nod to American individualism. Overall, I was annoyed with the book. But don’t take it as a rating for the book. It’s a reflection of my affair with the book. When it comes to books, I sleep around a lot with them. This affair didn’t last well or long. Pros: The prose flows. Beautifully written and engrossing. A unique setting of post-Independence India just finding its feet.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I’m not sure what I could possibly add to the already wonderful reviews by Alka Joshi’s debut novel. I purchased the ebook back in early March - before the pandemic lockdown - having no idea that it was a Reese Witherspoon Sunshine Book Club Pick. Life and other books got in the way - as many readers understand too well, too. A sweet birdie from India, gently reminded me to read “The Henna Artist”....[ for goodness sake, it’s time already].... and I did! I was in India for almost a full year in the I’m not sure what I could possibly add to the already wonderful reviews by Alka Joshi’s debut novel. I purchased the ebook back in early March - before the pandemic lockdown - having no idea that it was a Reese Witherspoon Sunshine Book Club Pick. Life and other books got in the way - as many readers understand too well, too. A sweet birdie from India, gently reminded me to read “The Henna Artist”....[ for goodness sake, it’s time already].... and I did! I was in India for almost a full year in the 1974....but this story takes place in the late 1940’s and 1950’s, in Jaipur, also known as Pink City.....the capital and largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan. ( a vibrant city....a great place to shop for jewelry, fabrics, handicrafts, body oils, creams, spices, herbs, and other vibrant delightful divines). Author, Alka Joshi ....[as many before me have said]...takes us on an alluring, full-of-life, passionate, spirited, and thoroughly engaging journey, in India. Historical fiction at its best...culture, customs, art, traditions vs. the unorthodoxy modern life, challenges for women of the working class, abandonment of abortion as birth control, identity, escape of an abusive arranged marriage, family, (an engrossing sister relationship, romance, healing, solace, personal desires vs.family obligations, dissimulation, heart break, heart warmth, perseverance, courage, vivid experiential descriptions, wonderful sweeping cast of characters....( easy to remember), and marvelous adventurous storytelling. I was a little late to this book party ....but I absolutely loved it. This is another book that truly deserves all the praise it’s getting. 5 strong stars....Highly recommend it. ( as many other readers did for me). Many thanks to readers before me....and congrats to our author - Alka Joshi - on her first - outstanding novel. Hm.....tonight is Friday night date night ( watching ‘Soundtrack’ on Netflix) , ..... maybe we’ll pick up Indian cuisine for dinner tonight ( Paul’s favorite anyway)....chickpea curry, veggie biryani, daal, .... cauliflower and peas, rice, and some yummy Naan Getting hungry? Me too!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I absolutely loved reading this book. I got completely immersed in Lakshmi's world and felt that Alka Joshi appealed to all of my senses through her lyrical smooth writing. Lakshmi was a strong female protagonist who is brave and smart and admirable but also fallible and relatable. I loved how all of the characters wound together and enjoyed seeing different sides of their personalities through their relationships with others. I would highly recommend this book as a must read. There is a characte I absolutely loved reading this book. I got completely immersed in Lakshmi's world and felt that Alka Joshi appealed to all of my senses through her lyrical smooth writing. Lakshmi was a strong female protagonist who is brave and smart and admirable but also fallible and relatable. I loved how all of the characters wound together and enjoyed seeing different sides of their personalities through their relationships with others. I would highly recommend this book as a must read. There is a character list and a glossary of Indian words and some recipes and I confess that I started out with the list open in front of me on the laptop while I read so that I would be able to keep track and was a bit nervous that there would be too many characters and I would be pulled out of the story trying to sort everyone out. That was not the case. Not long into the book, I closed my laptop and let the story tell itself. 1950's India and it's caste system are showed to us through Lakshmi and her sister and each of their journey's, from poverty to building an independent life. Lakshmi is a Henna artist and a herbalist and although seaming to float gracefully through many different castes, we see that her every action is quite calculated and careful to preserve her income and way of life. The supporting characters are fully developed and as with all people, are all motivated differently, giving the book a depth that really stands out. The imagery is so stunning and yet fluid to the story that it doesn't force itself on you, it envelops you. I cheered for Lakshmi through trials and celebrations and when the story finished, I felt like I closed the door on a new friend that I would miss. Go read this book!!!!

  9. 5 out of 5

    PorshaJo

    Honestly, I saw the book cover, the title, and I was sold. I love to read anything that takes place in India or dives into Indian culture. I was on the longest wait from my library (always a good sign) and then I happened to find the audio on Hoopla so I jumped right in. The story takes place in 1950's India in Jaipur. Lakshmi works as a henna artist, one that is highly sought after by the wealthy ladies of Jaipur. She's alone and working very hard for a new home that she is building. And one day Honestly, I saw the book cover, the title, and I was sold. I love to read anything that takes place in India or dives into Indian culture. I was on the longest wait from my library (always a good sign) and then I happened to find the audio on Hoopla so I jumped right in. The story takes place in 1950's India in Jaipur. Lakshmi works as a henna artist, one that is highly sought after by the wealthy ladies of Jaipur. She's alone and working very hard for a new home that she is building. And one day, her 13 year old sister shows up on her door step. This would be a sister she did not know existed. Lakshmi was married to an abusive man who she ran away from ending up in Jaipur. Her family were outcasts due to the shame and her sister was shun (she was bad luck so said the gossip eaters). After the parents pass, Radha goes to find her sister Lakshmi and the story takes off. Lakshmi is a strong woman who has been on her own for some time, taking care of herself, doing what she must to survive. And her sister can throw that all away for her actions. I really enjoyed this story. I liked hearing about the culture during the 50's, hearing about a 'single' woman working to support herself, the herbs and teas that Lakshmi used to help people, and the stress brought on by an arrival of a sister she didn't know existed. You can say this was a character study of one woman. The audio narration was great! I laughed each time the narrator voiced the 'bird' that was owned by of the ladies that Lakshmi served. I see there is a follow-on book coming next year picking up where this one left off and I can't wait. I'm very glad I read this and look forward to more from this author.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce

    I am starting to think that the best way for me to enjoy a book is to go into it somewhat blind, for that is exactly what I did with this book. Books that show how women of an earlier time made their way in what was a patriarchal world always make me realize the progress we have made in the direction of equality. Granted there is still a long road to travel, but we will get there. At any rate, this story's setting is in India in the 1950s, right after the Raj has given up main control of the coun I am starting to think that the best way for me to enjoy a book is to go into it somewhat blind, for that is exactly what I did with this book. Books that show how women of an earlier time made their way in what was a patriarchal world always make me realize the progress we have made in the direction of equality. Granted there is still a long road to travel, but we will get there. At any rate, this story's setting is in India in the 1950s, right after the Raj has given up main control of the country. We meet a wonderfully endearing woman, who is strong and resilient. Lakshmi, was seventeen when she left her village determined to escape from an abusive husband and make her way in the world. She is goal oriented, success and money drive her forward. She, with the help of influential and wealthy Indian man, build a career that brings her into the homes and the confidences of the entitled and rich women of India. She learns their secrets but holds her own close to her heart. Then as life seems to be turning in her favor, her husband reappears bearing a young girl who is Lakshami's young sister, a sister she never knew of. Times change for Lakshami as she learns that being a sister to a young teenager is both challenging and a rebirth of sorts. As life intervenes in Lakshami's dream, she begins a journey that awakens her to the true meaning of a life well lead. Wonderfully told, with the beautiful culture, sights, and smells of India, this story is easy to read and its allure is in telling a story that says that no matter which way life turns, it can bring you to a place where you will find the happiness you have been seeking all along. Incidentally, at the end Ms Joshi tells the reader of the way that henna is made as well as including some recipes for dishes she spoke of in the story.

  11. 4 out of 5

    DeAnn

    4 transport me to India stars This one completely absorbed me and took me to 1950s India with rich and colorful descriptions of the sights and sounds. We meet Lakshmi, the Henna Artist of Jaipur. She’s built an amazing business for herself and is even having her dream house built. She’s sought after by all the ladies in town and might even get an invitation to the royal palace. She has an herbal medicine business on the side as well. This was a fascinating side story as most of these herbs were v 4 transport me to India stars This one completely absorbed me and took me to 1950s India with rich and colorful descriptions of the sights and sounds. We meet Lakshmi, the Henna Artist of Jaipur. She’s built an amazing business for herself and is even having her dream house built. She’s sought after by all the ladies in town and might even get an invitation to the royal palace. She has an herbal medicine business on the side as well. This was a fascinating side story as most of these herbs were very effective. Her life is about to change when her younger sister shows up – a sister she didn’t even know existed. Lakshmi fled an abusive husband years ago. She didn’t realize the devastation she left behind for her parents and sister. Her sister Radha has a lot to learn about the world and how it works. She must just undo all the hard work that Lakshmi has put into her business. This one went in a different direction than I expected but I really liked how it ended and the journey into this time in India. I got a copy of this one through BookBrowse and it is a great one to discuss. I think it would make a great book club book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Brandice

    The Henna Artist follows Lakshmi, a 30 year old woman who fled her abusive marriage years ago to start over in Jaipur. She’s worked hard to become the most sought after henna artist there, with many wealthy clients. They trust her, as she keeps their secrets, but she’s also smart with an entrepreneurial mindset and working toward owning her own home. Lakshmi is surprised when her younger sister, Radha, shows up unexpectedly — She’s been away from her former life so long, she didn’t realize she e The Henna Artist follows Lakshmi, a 30 year old woman who fled her abusive marriage years ago to start over in Jaipur. She’s worked hard to become the most sought after henna artist there, with many wealthy clients. They trust her, as she keeps their secrets, but she’s also smart with an entrepreneurial mindset and working toward owning her own home. Lakshmi is surprised when her younger sister, Radha, shows up unexpectedly — She’s been away from her former life so long, she didn’t realize she even had a sister. Lakshmi’s carefully crafted plans start becoming disrupted as Radha doesn’t always listen to her older sister. I really liked Lakshmi and found it easy to root for her throughout the book. I enjoyed learning more about India during the 1950s and had no problem envisioning this story. So glad I finally read this one, I loved it!

  13. 5 out of 5

    NILTON TEIXEIRA

    What a great debut! This was very entertaining. I love entering a different culture. India is fascinating as is disturbing (all that poverty, violence against women and caste system - did you know that there are over 3k castes and 25k subcastes in India? - these topics are just highlighted in this book) Although the writing is very simple, I was engaged from the very beginning and I was transported to the era and culture. The storyline was absorbing and well developed/structured. The only reason I’m What a great debut! This was very entertaining. I love entering a different culture. India is fascinating as is disturbing (all that poverty, violence against women and caste system - did you know that there are over 3k castes and 25k subcastes in India? - these topics are just highlighted in this book) Although the writing is very simple, I was engaged from the very beginning and I was transported to the era and culture. The storyline was absorbing and well developed/structured. The only reason I’m not giving it 5 stars is because (I may have said exactly the same on previous reviews) I don’t like convenient coincidences, as it makes the world feels very small and predictable. But, predictable or not, I loved the conclusion.

  14. 5 out of 5

    La Tonya Jordan

    A fabulous read. The life of Lakshmi path to contentment was not the road must traveled. India in 1955 after the removal of the British was a time were Indians were starting to feel proud within themselves. For Lakshmi is was a time for her to show her true worth. Getting the foundation of her craft as a henna artist and a healer in her tiny village of Ajar, she leaves an abusive arranged marriage to find her purpose and value in life knowing she deserved better. In Jaipur, she is the henna arti A fabulous read. The life of Lakshmi path to contentment was not the road must traveled. India in 1955 after the removal of the British was a time were Indians were starting to feel proud within themselves. For Lakshmi is was a time for her to show her true worth. Getting the foundation of her craft as a henna artist and a healer in her tiny village of Ajar, she leaves an abusive arranged marriage to find her purpose and value in life knowing she deserved better. In Jaipur, she is the henna artist to the wealthy and powerful. It is at this junction she becomes more ambitions and wants to use her knowledge to become a matchmaker for pay. This is where she would be arranging the marriages of the elite for power, appearance, and status. She wants her parents to see her accomplishments and live in the comforts of her hard work. And most importantly to forgive her for abandoning her marriage resulting in the embarrassment to her family. This is when her thirteen year sister Radha enters her life. Lakshmi starts to unearth the person she has allowed to be buried for her accomplishments and ambition. Lakshmi will miss Samir, as will I. A fabulous well written novel of redemption. This novel reiterates the fact that wealth comes in many forms. A must read. Quotes: How could I explain men who knocked on the door in the middle of the night? Or women who had lovers outside their marriage? He smiled at me. "Install WCs-hundreds of them. To a clerk a bribe; to a Brahmin a gift." I realized that I seemed so pitiful to him that he, who had so little, was refusing the food I offered. "Dr. Kumar said her baby had stopped breathing. Days ago. Her body was trying to get rid of it, but she tried to stop it from happening."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    3.5 stars This novel is set in mid-1950s India, a few years after the sub-continent gained its independence from Great Britain. The main character, Lakshmi Shastri, is a twentysomething woman who fled from her arranged marriage thirteen years ago. Lakshsmi recalls, "I could no longer endure my husband's beatings; the wounds that made me bleed; the words that cut me open; the mornings I could barely get up off the floor. And all for what? For the child I couldn't give him." Before Lakshsmi left, he 3.5 stars This novel is set in mid-1950s India, a few years after the sub-continent gained its independence from Great Britain. The main character, Lakshmi Shastri, is a twentysomething woman who fled from her arranged marriage thirteen years ago. Lakshsmi recalls, "I could no longer endure my husband's beatings; the wounds that made me bleed; the words that cut me open; the mornings I could barely get up off the floor. And all for what? For the child I couldn't give him." Before Lakshsmi left, her beloved Saas (mother-in-law) taught her how to use spices, herbs, plants, potions, and teas - as well as specially prepared foods - to heal wounds, treat illnesses, lessen anxiety, induce relaxation, aid in conception, prevent conception, induce abortion, and so on. During Lakshmi's subsequent travels she learned to be a henna artist as well, and was eventually invited to the city of Jaipur by a rich businessman named Samir. Samir's sponsorship helped Lakshmi become the henna artist for high-caste women in Jaipur, including his wife Parvati. Lakshmi brings her supplies, as well as homemade treats, when she visits 'her ladies', and is credited with helping Parvati conceive her second son. Lakshmi's sponsor Samir also functions as a sort of business partner, introducing her to clients who need her help to get pregnant, grow their hair, lighten their skin, etc. In fact Samir himself is a client, purchasing sachets that prevent his mistresses from conceiving children. Lakshmi has worked very hard for the past decade, and used her earnings to build her dream house, bit by bit. The home is almost complete now, and Lakshmi looks forward to moving in and planting a large garden with medicinal plants and herbs. Ever since Lakshmi left her village, she has longed to see her parents, who - in accordance with Indian culture - would have been shamed and ostracized by her behavior. Lakshmi regularly wrote her parents and sent money, but they never responded. Now that Lakshmi's house is almost complete, she sent cash for train tickets.....so her parents could join her in Jaipur. Instead of Lakshmi's parents, her estranged husband Hari shows up, with a thirteen-year-old girl called Radha. Radha says she's Lakshmi's sister, born after she left, and that their parents are dead. Lakshmi takes Radha under her wing, and immediately starts to convert the 'village girl' into a 'city girl' who dresses and behaves in a sophisticated manner. Lakshmi also starts teaching Radha about natural medicines, and arranges for Radha to go to school when the semester starts. I don't want to say more because of spoilers, but I think it's fair to say that Radha - being a strong-willed hormonal adolescent getting her first taste of freedom - causes her share of trouble. There's quite a bit of drama as the story unfolds, and a wide array of secondary characters. Most of the Indian men in this book don't come off too well. We meet an alcoholic, a wife-beater, a disgusting lecher, a ruthless builder, an entitled youth, a flagrant philanderer, and more. Some of the women also behave badly, but - from their point of view - it's mostly self-protection. Indian women (in the 1950s at least) were relatively powerless, and had to maneuver as best they could to protect themselves, their families, and their position in society. Two of my favorite characters are Dr. Kumar - who wants to add natural remedies to his medical practice; and Malik - a clever, hard-working, 8-year-old boy who makes himself Lakshmi's assistant. Malik calls Lakshmi 'Auntie Boss' and skillfully maneuvers and manipulates (in a good way) to help himself and his employer. With an education, Malik could probably be Prime Minister of India. To me, the information Alka Joshi includes about Indian customs, dress, food, marriages, ceremonies, castes, etc. is fascinating. Cerebrations that require women to be painted with henna include things like marriage, pregnancy, birth, baby naming, baby's first solid food, visits to a temple, moving into a new house, death, funerals, etc. This provides plenty of work for henna artists, especially talented ones with original designs. The author also touches on castes in India, and I learned that high caste people aren't supposed to do jobs that require touching people's heads or feet; and high caste contractors can't built bathrooms, because of the 'unclean' association. Brahmin wedding The author doesn't say too much about lower castes, which aren't the focus of the book. I enjoyed the novel, my major quibbles being that the plot is somewhat predictable and the book has too much of a fairy tale vibe. Still, this is a good debut novel, highly recommended. You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....

  16. 4 out of 5

    da AL

    When's the last time you read something unapologetically pro-choice -- & that's as empowering as it is romantic? Me? Never. Can't wait for Joshi's next book! Wish there were more novels that discuss pro-choice issues head-on. Enchanting story set in 1950s India from women's point of view about the choices we're given and how much we can make with them. Audiobook narrator Sneha Mathan is marvelous! When's the last time you read something unapologetically pro-choice -- & that's as empowering as it is romantic? Me? Never. Can't wait for Joshi's next book! Wish there were more novels that discuss pro-choice issues head-on. Enchanting story set in 1950s India from women's point of view about the choices we're given and how much we can make with them. Audiobook narrator Sneha Mathan is marvelous!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn

    As I entered Lakshmi's world of India in the 1950's, I was transported to another time and place. I listened to the audio book of The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi read by Sneha Mathan. It was a beautiful, well written book that captured my heart from the beginning. The characters were so well described, complex and memorable that I often found myself closing my eyes and was easily able to picture them. Alka Joshi's storytelling was masterful and engaging. It was a book about family, sisters, a cas As I entered Lakshmi's world of India in the 1950's, I was transported to another time and place. I listened to the audio book of The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi read by Sneha Mathan. It was a beautiful, well written book that captured my heart from the beginning. The characters were so well described, complex and memorable that I often found myself closing my eyes and was easily able to picture them. Alka Joshi's storytelling was masterful and engaging. It was a book about family, sisters, a caste system that dictated one's success or lack of, advantages or disadvantages in life based on one's socio-economic standings, motherhood, forgiveness, idle gossip, deceit and transformation. Focus was placed on the issues of abortion, arranged marriages and the roles of women vs. men and how they were viewed in this time period. Throughout Lakshmi's journey, India's culture in Jaipur, India was revealed, seen and felt with all the senses. I loved the vivid details of the saris the women wore and the description of the henna designs Lakshmi drew on her wealthy clients and their significance. Lakshmi had many talents that she had the impossible task of balancing. Her strength and the way she always found a way to recover from adversity or a problem was so commendable. Lakshmi's reunion with her younger sister was at times so beautiful and yet so challenging. This was Alka Joshi's first novel and it was moving, unforgettable and so satisfying. I can't wait to see what she writes next. I highly recommend this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    RoseMary Achey

    People can change-this was one of the core concepts a reader is left after finishing this enjoyable book. The Henna Artist set during the late 1950’s in India features several characters who grow and develop and this was utterly pleasurable to read. The main character is living and working as a respected and independent woman. Rare for a woman in the 1950’s in India a country still ruled by the strict social mores and class system. She has worked for over a decade establishing a highly successfu People can change-this was one of the core concepts a reader is left after finishing this enjoyable book. The Henna Artist set during the late 1950’s in India features several characters who grow and develop and this was utterly pleasurable to read. The main character is living and working as a respected and independent woman. Rare for a woman in the 1950’s in India a country still ruled by the strict social mores and class system. She has worked for over a decade establishing a highly successful business as a henna artist and herbalist. Her well controlled world is suddenly upended when the abusive husband she ran from 13 years ago arrives with her sister in tow. A sister she never knew existed. This book was well researched and will completely encapsulate you with the sights and sounds of the time and place. You will cheer for these flawed characters on their journey to greater self-awareness.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette (Again)

    If you fancy an exotic, Indian-style soap opera, get your sweaty mitts on this novel tout de suite. It's rich in cultural details about 1950s Jaipur, which elevates it to something more than chick lit, despite all the cattiness and backstabbing and one-upping of the high society ladies. It's not deathless prose, but it's highly readable. I finished it in a couple of days. If you fancy an exotic, Indian-style soap opera, get your sweaty mitts on this novel tout de suite. It's rich in cultural details about 1950s Jaipur, which elevates it to something more than chick lit, despite all the cattiness and backstabbing and one-upping of the high society ladies. It's not deathless prose, but it's highly readable. I finished it in a couple of days.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    The Henna Artist transported me to 1950s Jaipur with its vividly descriptive and beautiful writing. The protagonist, Lakshmi, is hard-working, bright and resourceful, and while I didn’t always agree with her choices, I really wanted to see her succeed. She was flawed in a way that made her relatable which I liked. Malik was my favorite character and I wish more of his backstory would have been provided. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and was impressed to find out it was the author’s debut n The Henna Artist transported me to 1950s Jaipur with its vividly descriptive and beautiful writing. The protagonist, Lakshmi, is hard-working, bright and resourceful, and while I didn’t always agree with her choices, I really wanted to see her succeed. She was flawed in a way that made her relatable which I liked. Malik was my favorite character and I wish more of his backstory would have been provided. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and was impressed to find out it was the author’s debut novel. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. 4 stars.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Deacon Tom F

    A Classic I thought that “The Henna Artist” by Alka Joshi was a masterfully crafted novel. The storyline contains eloquent descriptions, vivid use of metaphor and a moving plot that powerfully balances a yearning for family with the need for fortune. In short, it is about one woman’s (Lakshmi) struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional view of women as property and the modern ideas of woman’s property ownership. The backstory of the book brings us into a culture that A Classic I thought that “The Henna Artist” by Alka Joshi was a masterfully crafted novel. The storyline contains eloquent descriptions, vivid use of metaphor and a moving plot that powerfully balances a yearning for family with the need for fortune. In short, it is about one woman’s (Lakshmi) struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional view of women as property and the modern ideas of woman’s property ownership. The backstory of the book brings us into a culture that is luxurious and fascinating. On the other hand it is truly bigoted and cruel. Lakshmi’s story carries a modern worldview in spite of her history of an abusive marriage. With her worldview, she becomes the most popular and professional henna artist with the upper class women. Like a good bartender in today’s world, they share their secrets—what a burden! Life is further complicated when her sister gets pregnant. This leads to a surprising ending that was very satisfying. A very enjoyable story. I 100% recommend.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jananie (thisstoryaintover)

    Omg this was so good 😭😭😭 I flew through this in two days and it's been such an incredible, enveloping story that's completely stolen my heart. The setting of Jaipur came to life off the page and I was so invested in Lakshmi's life from fleeing her marriage as a young girl to being the capable businesswoman to having to take care of her (often ungrateful) younger sister but also to the growth she reached by the end and the new purpose she found. I have so much love for Lakshmi and Malik and Madho Omg this was so good 😭😭😭 I flew through this in two days and it's been such an incredible, enveloping story that's completely stolen my heart. The setting of Jaipur came to life off the page and I was so invested in Lakshmi's life from fleeing her marriage as a young girl to being the capable businesswoman to having to take care of her (often ungrateful) younger sister but also to the growth she reached by the end and the new purpose she found. I have so much love for Lakshmi and Malik and Madho Singh and Jay Kumar—these characters will definitely live on in my heart ♥️

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tammy(PeaceLoveBooks)

    Oh my. So much love for The Henna Artist! I admit that I did struggle a bit at the beginning but was quickly pulled into this beautifully written story of Lakshmi in 1950's India. I love historical fiction and enjoy reading about other cultures. This is honestly the first book I have read about the Indian culture and I absolutely loved Lakshmi's story! Oh my. So much love for The Henna Artist! I admit that I did struggle a bit at the beginning but was quickly pulled into this beautifully written story of Lakshmi in 1950's India. I love historical fiction and enjoy reading about other cultures. This is honestly the first book I have read about the Indian culture and I absolutely loved Lakshmi's story!

  24. 5 out of 5

    The Bibliophile Doctor

    I'm always hesitant to pick up books by Indian authors written in English as they tend to be written for foreign readers, concentrating solely on stark poverty in India along with biases and hypocrisy. Henna artist had raving reviews on Instagram and it piqued my interest as it was chosen by Reese's book club. Now I don't often take the chance at all of reading someone Indian as it disppoints me and makes me furious, The Henna Artist on the other hand was a journey that was soulful and subtle wit I'm always hesitant to pick up books by Indian authors written in English as they tend to be written for foreign readers, concentrating solely on stark poverty in India along with biases and hypocrisy. Henna artist had raving reviews on Instagram and it piqued my interest as it was chosen by Reese's book club. Now I don't often take the chance at all of reading someone Indian as it disppoints me and makes me furious, The Henna Artist on the other hand was a journey that was soulful and subtle without much ado to the cliches that are shown in many foreign TV shows and English Indian books. For example, If they have an Indian character, it has an odd typical annoying accent, please come to India n see that nobody talks like that in India. Not with the kind of accentuation and intonation the fake/ NRI uses. The Indians are always shown black, if you have ever visited in India, you will come to know that India is not just colorful in terms of culture and food but it's colourful when it comes to tones of people. You will find all tones, mind you from whites to wheatish to black. One of the reason I don't watch many Netflix series on India. They are so cliched and outrageously racist. Anyways coming back to the book, this book was a pleasantly delightful. Set in India few years past independence, the Henna artist shows the residual Influence and effect British has left over India in their wake along with historical India. Although not written solely for foreign readers, author has kept in mind the readers outside India to help them better understand, that's why few explanations as well as recipes. The main protagonist Lakshmi is thirty years old Henna Artist who makes her living by doing henna works for her privileged women and being a herbalist by side and her sister Radha who she didn't know she had. "Success was ephemeral—and fluid—as I’d found out the hard way. It came. It went. It changed you from the outside, but not from the inside. Inside, I was still the same girl who dreamed of a destiny greater than she was allowed. Did I really need the house to prove I had skill, talent, ambition, intelligence? What if—” Lakshmi's strife to make her own place in the world where most women (sometimes even from the rich and respected families don't) is admirable. What's more admirable though is that even with success, she stays humble and true to her nature. She can throw off the chains as she did once but she doesn't. She rather chooses to make the most with everything she has. She is pleasant, strong, honest and sincere. She knows where she stands in the society and never crosses her boundaries set by herself and her clients. She is confidante to rich high caste women but she is never able to give away her own secrets and yes, she has few unrevealed truths. Lakshmi isn't naive nor is she reckless but she is human afterall making mistakes along the line while life throws obstacles her way. Her life turns upside down when she comes to know about her sister and becomes a guardian figure to her. The sudden & abrupt change in her life and rebelliousness of her sister doesn't deluge Laksmi from her supposed responsibility. The author through the subtle livid prose has woven an imagery of how it was in India past independence but it doesn't dramatize or tries to over-sympathize. It paints a vivid picture of castes and class, women's place in the men's world, gender bias which is overwhelming at many points but rightly so. The writing style has a poetic flow as it does not gloss over in an attempt to earn over the sympathy of the readers. It is so true to the era and time that it feels real and factual. Lakshmi is one of those characters who comes out quite strong despite what they did wasn't outstanding or rebellious but it was enough, it was the most that could have been achieved in those times. Only thing that I didn't feel upto my liking was the surprises or twists in the plot weren't surprising for me, not really. They were quite predictable but not at the fault of author but maybe I have seen too much Indian drama. Even the end was quite foreseeable. It didn't bother me but it did took out the shock factor. I hope this review helps you to decide if it is a read for you or not for all the readers, Indians or non-Indians included.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cam

    Starting off the month of October right with this book!! I really enjoyed it! Lakshmi escapes from an abusive marriage and makes her way alone to the city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist to the wealthy women of the upper class. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her changed husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew Starting off the month of October right with this book!! I really enjoyed it! Lakshmi escapes from an abusive marriage and makes her way alone to the city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist to the wealthy women of the upper class. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her changed husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pragya

    I picked this up from GR book award nominations section, saw the wonderful reviews and decided to go for it. It started off really well, then went downhill and never revived itself. I really just wanted to finish reading it after a point. I was confused about all those raving reviews before realizing that this book was written keeping in mind the international audience and what sells to them. It was not meant for Indian readers who would find the loopholes and would not be swayed by the ayurvedi I picked this up from GR book award nominations section, saw the wonderful reviews and decided to go for it. It started off really well, then went downhill and never revived itself. I really just wanted to finish reading it after a point. I was confused about all those raving reviews before realizing that this book was written keeping in mind the international audience and what sells to them. It was not meant for Indian readers who would find the loopholes and would not be swayed by the ayurvedic remedies and the cultural overwhelm and would be able to realize the hurried yet not real plot and the stunted character development. It felt like there was a rush to reach the happy ever after ending and so it was. The characters and situations were often implausible. Several times, I found myself shaking my head. And those idioms had me gritting my teeth, half the time they were just inserted where they didn't even fit. This book is meant to overwhelm an international audience making them believe they have got a glimpse of Indian culture, the truth is far from it. I was relieved to know I wasn't the only one who felt this way when I read some other reviews, not all of them by Indians. Some non-Indian readers also did see through the whole 'let me pitch this colorful, intense, surprise-me-at-every-page' India to them and they will be sold to the idea. (I also do see a certain person commenting on low star reviews and questioning them. Just in case, she wants to do the same, be my guest but I will not be replying back. Are you the author in disguise or someone related to her? Do remember, people have varying opinions. Each to his own. Accept that and move on.) This book really could have been so much more. The Henna Artist had potential but it didn't live up to it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    Lakshmi ran away from an abusive husband at the tender age of seventeen. She went to the pink city of Jaipur to eventually become a henna artist and herbalist to upper class women. The independent Lakshmi was finally in a financial position to afford a small house when her life was upended. Her former husband found her, and he was accompanied by her sister who she didn't know existed. Henna artists were in demand for weddings and other important rituals. Wealthy women had parties where they were Lakshmi ran away from an abusive husband at the tender age of seventeen. She went to the pink city of Jaipur to eventually become a henna artist and herbalist to upper class women. The independent Lakshmi was finally in a financial position to afford a small house when her life was upended. Her former husband found her, and he was accompanied by her sister who she didn't know existed. Henna artists were in demand for weddings and other important rituals. Wealthy women had parties where they were adorned with henna. Henna was also used for sensual appeal for couples hoping for a pregnancy. Lakshmi also used fragrant oils and lotions that could be massaged into the skin, as well as providing herbal products for a variety of ailments. "The Henna Artist" is set in 1950s India, a time of great change after India established independence from Great Britain. Elements about class and customs are woven into the story. Lakshmi is on the cutting edge for that era when most women stayed in arranged marriages. But unfortunate actions by her sister threatened to topple everything Lakshmi had carefully cultivated. The descriptions are full of color, smells of warm spices and delicious food, soft cushions, a marble palace, beautiful plants, and a talking bird. But one is also aware of the men pulling rickshaws, the servants, the prostitutes, and the children roaming the streets. Author Joshi transports us to Jaipur and Shimla in this story. I enjoyed the characters in this book, especially Lakshmi who seemed to be pulled by responsibilities in many directions. While there were a few events that did not seem totally realistic, I felt that the author was an entertaining storyteller.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kerrin P

    The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi is an intimate look at the life of an Indian woman named Lakshmi. She was forced to marry Hari at a young age. His mother taught her herbal medicine, including remedies for hair loss, fertility, and abortion. When Hari became abusive, Lakshmi escaped to Jaipur India. Her abandonment brought great shame to her parents. Unbeknown to Lakshmi when she deserted, her mother was pregnant with another daughter named Radha. In Jaipur, Lakshmi meets a wealthy man named Samir, The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi is an intimate look at the life of an Indian woman named Lakshmi. She was forced to marry Hari at a young age. His mother taught her herbal medicine, including remedies for hair loss, fertility, and abortion. When Hari became abusive, Lakshmi escaped to Jaipur India. Her abandonment brought great shame to her parents. Unbeknown to Lakshmi when she deserted, her mother was pregnant with another daughter named Radha. In Jaipur, Lakshmi meets a wealthy man named Samir, who is very interested in her medicine packets. Samir introduces her to his wife Parvati, who helps Lakshmi become a well-known henna artist amongst the rich women. Lakshmi wants nothing more than to finish paying for the house she is having built and to continue to grow her business. Her life is upended when Hari arrives in Jaipur with the 13-year-old Radha after their parents died. Radha, who had been known as the bad luck girl in their home village, creates chaos for Lakshmi. The story beautifully paints a picture of 1950’s India. This was a time when the royal family would disown children on the advice of astrologers and adopt a new heir apparent. In discussing life after British rule Lakshmi says, “Independence changed everything. Independence changed nothing.” Rumor mongers could easily destroy the livelihood of someone in a lower caste. Lakshmi must deal with the whims of the wealthy women, the wild behavior of her sister, financial woes, and eventually her own health issues. I listened to the Audible Audio and really enjoyed Sneha Mathan’s narration. 4 plus stars. Book club recommended, unless the discussion of abortions is upsetting for your group.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [3+] An enjoyable book to curl up with and get lost in. I doubt that I'll remember this novel though - plot and characters felt very generic. [3+] An enjoyable book to curl up with and get lost in. I doubt that I'll remember this novel though - plot and characters felt very generic.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shazia Khan

    Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for sending me this beautiful book in exchange for an honest review. Receiving diverse books from publishers makes my heart soar. I was six years old the first time I had Mehndi (henna) placed on my hands. I was in Pakistan at the time with my parents, and we were watching a henna ceremony from the lobby in our hotel. I was mesmerized by all the dancing, singing and by all the girls running around with henna on their hands. I begged my mother to go ask them if I Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for sending me this beautiful book in exchange for an honest review. Receiving diverse books from publishers makes my heart soar. I was six years old the first time I had Mehndi (henna) placed on my hands. I was in Pakistan at the time with my parents, and we were watching a henna ceremony from the lobby in our hotel. I was mesmerized by all the dancing, singing and by all the girls running around with henna on their hands. I begged my mother to go ask them if I could get henna done on my hands as well. It was the henna artist that caught my eye and saw me pulling my mom towards the ceremony. She walked up to us holding her tube of henna and asked me if I wanted a design on my hand. My mom loves to tell me how I let go of her hand and followed the henna artist into the ceremony as if I was an invited guest. While I don’t remember the exact design she drew, I do remember being fascinated by the end product. My mom’s favourite part of the story is how I created such a scene because I was so excited that the bride herself invited us to the wedding two days later. Reading “The Henna Artist” by Alka Joshi reminded me of this memory. I have loved Henna from that moment twenty-six years ago. I knew I needed this book in my life just by reading the synopsis. This story transported me to 1950’s India as we follow a woman’s quest at an independent life through her art. Synopsis: Lakshmi was seventeen-years-old when she escaped an abusive marriage and set off on a journey alone from her 1950’s village to the city of Jaipur. She begins a decade long career of adorning wealthy women’s hands and bodies with henna. Lakshmi becomes well known for her beautiful designs and slowly begins building towards her dream of an independent life. Everything comes crashing down when her husband tracks her down with a thirteen-year-old sister she never knew she had. The story follows Lakshmi and Radha as they both navigate their new relationship. This was such an incredible book to read around International Women’s Day. Lakshmi was a character I rooted for from the very beginning, even when she was making choices that I did not agree with. The author made her so human, which means she was flawed but also living under the weight of a painful past, a difficult present and often times what felt like an impossible future. Her dream of being financially independent and living in a house built from her hard work was admirable and it was a dream that felt so fragile, like a house of cards that a small gust of wind could topple over. “The Gossip-Eaters” as the author calls them had such a huge role in the book. I think the author did a phenomenal job in portraying how people’s words could have a lasting effect on a person’s life. The author also did a great job in depicting the hardships of different caste members, of the poor and unmarried women at the time. The Characters: The characters felt so real to me. The author did a great job in humanizing many of the characters, including the ones I wanted to hate. She excelled at showing the driving factors that can lead people to make bad decisions, which left me feeling sympathy for many of them. Lakshmi and Radha’s relationship was both beautiful and complex. These sisters really grew together, and while there were times when I felt just as protective and frustrated with Radha, I began to understand her and how vulnerable those teenage years can be. Malik was by far one of my favourite characters. I smiled every time he called Lakshmi “Auntie-boss”. Overall this book is immersed in culture, history and female empowerment. I always talk about how diversity is important in the publishing world and I’m really happy that books like these are being published. There is so much you can learn from this book and I have a feeling you will end up wanting to get henna done right after. I know I’m thinking about it right now.

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